Residents under the flightpaths for Heathrow Airport fear their homes could lose value because of increased night flying.

Night flights over London are due to rise by 60 per cent by 1998. Heathrow's maximum number of night flights is being frozen, but because the Department of Transport reduced the time that night restrictions apply, there will be an extra 30 minutes of noise.

The restrictions used to operate from 11.30pm to 6.30am, but now the 'morning shift' will start at 6am.

Eric and Margaret Whitehead, a retired couple who live under the northern flightpath in Heston, fear the worst.

'It's really frightening here,' said Mr Whitehead. 'One day Concorde flew over and blew two great holes in our roof, knocking the slates flying. My wife had just gone in the back door and they only just missed her.

'We can't afford to move because we won't get enough for our house. And now they have changed the night hours, it will be even worse and we might lose even more money.

'The house is worth about pounds 95,000, but it probably won't stay like that for long. We are watching a house down the road which has been for sale for some time now, to see how much it finally sells for.'

Mathew Seamons, an estate agent based in West Drayton working for the firm Barnard Marcus, said the drop in prices could be as much as five per cent of a house's value. 'Undoubtedly there will be an adverse effect for people living at the end of the runway. An estimate could be a house costing up to pounds 100,000 could lose something like pounds 5,000.'

Adrian Duke, a spokesman for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said he believed there would be a fall in prices.

'People buying a house in areas around airports with increased night flights would take that as a negotiation device and try to push the price down.'

However, for those campaigning for a total ban on night flights at Heathrow this is only one of many threats.

John Boulton, of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, said: 'This will have an effect, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Heathrow.'

(Photograph omitted)